“Masters Of Exclusion” – Maybe We Communicate Best By What We Leave Out

I have a 3 hour session that I have presented many times, to many audiences.  I call it, simply, “Communicate.”  I presented it again today for the Sergeant’s Class for the Dallas Police Department (for the Caruth Police Institute).  I named it simply “Communicate” because most failures of communication really are “a failure to communicate” at all.  In other words, though it certainly helps to communicate in the right way, with the right tone, in a way that engages and informs, and impacts the audience – though all of this, and much more, have an impact – it all starts with actual communication.  Let me repeat:  most failures of communication really go back to “a failure to communicate” at all.

Made to StickMy session incorporates my synopses of two excellent books: Made to StickWhy Some Ideas Survive and Words That WorkOthers Die by Chip Heath and Dan Heath and Words That Work:  
It’s Not What You Say, It’s What People Hear by Dr. Frank Luntz.

Here are some key lines from Made to Stick that especially hit me as I revisited them today (emphasis added):

One skill we can learn is the ability to spot ideas that have natural talent.
To strip an idea down to its core, we must be masters of exclusion. We must relentlessly prioritize. Saying something short is not the mission – sound bites are not the ideal. Proverbs are the ideal. We must create ideas that are both simple and profound. The Golden Rule is the ultimate model of simplicity: a one-sentence statement so profound that an individual could spend a lifetime learning to follow it.

Masters of exclusion.  In other words, you communicate most effectively by:

First spotting the one idea; the big idea; the important idea…
and then by…
leaving stuff out — by only including what you most need to include – to state/share/communicate that key idea in a way that the audience receives it; “gets” it; and is ready to act on it.

“Masters of exclusion.”  Not an easy skill to master…


Here are the main points from each of these two excellent books:

In Made to Stick, the authors commend six principles for successfully communicating messages that will stick:

Principle 1 Simplicity 
Principle 2 Unexpectedness
Principle 3 Concreteness
Principle 4 Credibility
Principle 5 Emotions
Principle 6 Stories

(By the way, remembering Aristotle and the ancient rhetoricians is always useful:  of the six principles, ethos, pathos, and mythos are clearly evident, and logos is never far behind).

In Words that Work, Luntz proposes 10 Rules for Successful Communicators.  (Yes, there is some overlap in these two lists).

The Ten Rules of Successful Communication:

Rule 1 Simplicity:  Use Small Words
Rule 2 Brevity:  Use Short Sentences
Rule 3 Credibility is as Important as Philosophy
Rule 4 Consistency Matters
Rule 5 Novelty:  Offer Something New
Rule 6 Sound and Texture Matter (alliteration)
Rule 7 Speak Aspirationally
Rule 8 Rule Eight – Visualize
Rule 9 Ask a Question
Rule 10 Prepare Context and Explain Relevance

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